Thursday, 25 November 2010

Compton Potters' Art Guild 1899-1954

Mary Sefton Fraser Tytler Watts, wife of the Victorian portrait painter George Frederick Watts, established the pottery c1899 as an extension to her clay modelling class. itself a result of the discovery of clay at their home "Limnerslease" (painters place) c1890. She was also an artist having studied at the Slade and South Kensington School of Art.

When the Compton Parish Council created a new burial ground, she offered to design and build a new mortuary chapel. This was constructed between 1896 - 98 with virtually every resident involved.
The Chapel is a "must visit" for all fans of arts and crafts. From the outside it has the look of a Roman Italianate Chapel with the interior being a magical confection of Angels; Arthurian Legend meets Burne-Jones. The graves often include art and crafts type sayings eg 

"The Morning Stars Sang Together"

and inside the chapel is the message

 "Their hope is full of immorality but the soul of the righteous are in the hands of God"

The pottery's output was extensive including; figures, jugs, plaques and pendants. Models include; Owl jugs, Toby Jugs, Frog and up to c1915; St George, St Francis, St Christopher, St Martin, St Michael, St Celia, the four seasons, Joan of Arc, Sir Galahad. During the post 1st World War period many pairs of bookends were made including Archers, Sunburst, Galleon, Fruit and Flowers.
The majority of the pottery was made from a soft white body and decorated with tempera, an egg based paint. This is susceptible to ware and washes off !!! be warned - be aware of any unusual white unglazed items !!

Here are examples of the marks to look for, although many items are not marked. Generally refered to by collectors as Compton Pottery.

Here are few pictures of the Mortuary Chapel and grounds. Well worth a trip on bright and sunny day.

I will revisit this subject with a more detailed look at the pottery.

Still the best books on British Art Pottery are
British Ceramic Art, 1870-1940

Encyclopaedia of British art pottery, 1870-1920
Click on title to find a copy.
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